Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-023
It’s ridiculous the way the British government and media are fretting the causes of recent urban riots there. They’ve been deluded by their own social reconstructionist rhetoric, and are left ineffectually mouthing “why?” like fish gasping out of water. In the aftermath, and amid the debris they are now analyzing how a majority of rioters did not fit the police profile of hooligans, or how the violence demonstrates the failure of previous indulgent, soft approaches to delinquent youths. At a loss for better ideas Prime Minister David Cameron has no choice but to fall back on a hard, punitive anti-crime line. I guess it’s too easy now to say that he ought to have taken such a stance from the start of his political career, but ...
I think making sense of it all is simpler than over-analyzing criminologists or social scientists pretend. It’s elementary, Watson! Violence is terrible, sure, but it’s fun. Especially for bored, unemployed young people during a languid, hot summer who see an opportunity for a great adrenaline rush and so take advantage of it. They even use their social media to turn it into a kind of dark street party.
Violence is terrible. But let’s face it, it’s exciting. That’s one more reason why we will always have war, which is something to remember here in Japan when we prostrate ourselves every August before the idol of Peace with vows of “never again.”
But I could be wrong.
Published on Thursday, August 18, 2011 as “Over-analyzing the British riots.”
I kind of regret this letter and wish that I hadn’t sent it. Oh, well, it’s too late now. At the very least I might re-write it before submitting it. My point is not that the U.K., government and media are wrong or ridiculous to fret the causes of recent rioting there. It is that the way they are doing it invites my ridicule. I have little regard and no sympathy for people dumbly expressing, “We never imagined this.” People ought to be intelligent enough to imagine anything at all, simultaneously, from the angelic to the demonic, the high minded and the low, the profound and the mundane. What we see time and again in society, in government, in human relations is a failure of imagination - like 9/11 in the U.S., or 3/11 in Japan.
From a sociological viewpoint we might say that flash mob action is the new community bonding done by the socially isolated using their social media. Explaining it that way sounds a little mitigating, doesn’t it?
Detractors will immediately criticize me for over-simplifying phenomena of mob violence and crassly diminishing the suffering of victims. I can imagine them sharpening their knives right now, typing away on their computers with indignant outrage, and I may see the results as soon as Sunday 21st. Yes, well ...